Will we ever see the Senate’s 6,000 page report on CIA torture without someone leaking it? A leak always been the most likely resolution for the transparency-seeking public, but, in this case, it’s increasingly looking like the only one.
In a surprise to absolutely no one, the CIA has, for the fourth time, asked a federal court for more time to make a decision about releasing the torture report. The ACLU and journalist Jason Leopold have separately sued for the report’s release, while the White House and Senate Intelligence Committee continue to haggleover what to redact and what to release since the committee voted it be declassified all the way back in April. While the Obama administration continues to say it wants the report released, their actions continue to show the opposite.
The dueling battles for the report’s release has been going on for over six months, even as the clock continues to tick on what remains of the statute of limitations for anyone at the CIA to be held legally accountable for systematically torturing dozens of suspects, let along habitually lying about it it to the public and other branches of government.
With an almost hilarious amount of chutzpah, the CIA is actually blaming the Senate Intelligence Committee for the delay in the report’s release because its members have the audacity to insist that the redactions be reduced so that people can actually comprehend the end result. The biggest fight seems to be over the CIA’s efforts to black out the pseudonyms of CIA agents used in the report. While the report is already void of anyone’s real name – and the pseudonyms were exclusively used in the report at the request of the CIA, as The Intercept’s Dan Froomkin reported earlier this week – the CIA is still arguing that the pseudonyms themselves are a national security risk
The CIA argues the redactions are necessary to protect the agents from physical harm. In reality, the only harm that could ever come the way of these pseudonymous CIA agents would be in the form of more lawsuits from victims, given that the Justice Department gave up trying to prosecute any of them, and the White House gave up on even a modicum of accountability a while ago.
As Sen. Ron Wyden said on Friday,demanding that every single pseudonym in the report be blacked out “would be unprecedented and unacceptable.”
Realistically, the CIA is probably just stalling to avoid any decision before the elections, because – as Foreign Policy’s John Hudson reported Thursday – if the Republicans win back the Senate, the CIA knows it will win big too. It might seem hard to imagine someone who’s usually more deferential to the intelligence community than Sen. Feinstein (other than on this one issue) but the next head of the intelligence committee – which again, is supposed to question the agency – is North Carolina Republican Richard Burr. No one could possibly be more of a cheerleader for the CIA and its torture regime supposedly halted six years ago than Burr, and he’s vowed to never hold public hearings to question intelligence officials.
Some people, including a former Senate staffer, think that this is actually what the Obama administration is hoping for. Since most of the Republicans on the Intelligence Committee dissented from even releasing the report, a Republican Senate majority could make sure that the report gets buried indefinitely.
One of the Democratic Senators who is in jeopardy of losing his seat on Tuesday is Colorado’s Mark Udall, who – along with Oregon’s Ron Wyden – has been one of the only voices of accountability on this committee of rubber-stamp wielders. Udall’s the senator who grilled CIA director John Brennan earlier this year at his confirmation when he promised that he would try to help get the torture report released, but, behind the scenes, would end up doing everything he possibly could to stall the release and blunt its impact.
Udall has also been one of the NSA’s number one critics: he’s even run campaign commercials explaining that it’s important to stand up for the constitution. His opponent in Colorado says that he is pro-NSA reform too – but a freshman Republican wouldn’t get Udall’s seat on the intelligence committee, and Udall’s voice there is one transparency and privacy advocates can’t afford to lose. (It’s also a wonder that the giant tech companies, who claim to be strongly pushing for NSA reform, haven’t supported his campaign more, considering he is one of the lone voices on the NSA’s only Senate oversight committee who has made real progress on privacy issues).
Friends, we cannot let Mark Udall lose his Senate seat. I’m donating to him today. “Top NSA critic could lose seat”: http://thehill.com/policy/technology/221072-top-nsa-critic-could-lose-seat …
If the GOP spikes the torture report for good after the elections – or even if the CIA continues its never-ending game of stall-ball – the public may only ever learn the truth about our torture programs via the most effective and most dangerous mechanism for information dissemination: a leak. A leak as how we learned about torture to begin with – along with the NSA’s massive powers, the unaccountable No Fly List, drone strikes on Americans and pretty much every other awful thing the CIA has ever done.
It would require a brave and courageous soul to leak the torture report – one willing to incur the wrath of an administration that has prosecuted more sources and whistleblowers than any other administration in history. But it may be the only way that we can begin to account for this dark chapter in American history.